In June I returned to Glasgow to re-rehearse The Bacchae for the National Theatre of Scotland. I realised I had never really gone back to a theatre show before in this way. (I had done Cabaret twice but there were four years separating the two productions and none of the other cast was the same). Sometimes when something has gone so well the first time - and of course it probably has otherwise why do it again? - it is a little weird for new people to come in, and to try to rehash something.
However, what was great about doing it again was that the new people came in and instead of recreating they brought a whole new energy and approach, and it was actually really exciting to find new things in scnes that had never crossed my mind before. Also the director, John Tiffany, made lots of changes and tightened the show up and it felt like we were doing a whole new thing.
Cal Macaninch, who played Pentheus, brought a totally different tone and that made me have to think afresh. I loved it! Also I loved that we went to Aberdeen and Inverness in Scotland before bringing the show to NYC as part of the Lincoln Center festival. I had spent a lot of time in Inverness as a little boy as my Granny and many relations lived there, and I also knew people in Aberdeen too, so it was another summer of coming home. And then I got to bring it to my new home to NYC where all my friends were able to see what the fuss was about!
I did a reading of a play directed by David Brind, when he told me he was in pre-production for a movie he had written, Dare. The reading went really well, David and I got on like a house on fire and kept in touch. Over the next while, he emailed me telling me how it was going with the film preparation, in particular with the casting. There is one character of an actress who comes back to her alma mater and bitch slaps the main character played by Emmy Rossum. He had been having trouble casting it, and in one of the meetings someone said, “why don’t we make it a man, and get Alan Cumming to play it.” Everyone laughed, but then they actually did it. And I was offered the role.
So I popped down to Philadelphia for a few days and had a really great time. The script is really clever and surprising. It’s about three friends at high school, finding themselves and each other, but it’s not at all your usual right-of-passage teenage flick. I think David is a really great writer, I enjoyed working with Adam Salky, the director. And poor Emmy, who had to stand a whole day of me being so mean to her.
I went to London to promote Tin Man and spoke to this funny website called Holy Moly...
Then later in the year I was on Morning Joe
PBS asked me to be the host of their Masterpiece Mystery series. I love PBS, and since the prevous hosts include Vincent Price and Diana Rigg, I was rather honoured to be asked. Basically I come out of the shadows and introduce some British TV mystery show. I love being a host. I feel I ought to come out of the shadows with a tray of sandwiches.
I was asked to talk about NYC and my favourite things about it for a campaign the city was doing called 'Just Ask The Locals'
I shot a PSA with Michael Caulson for Live Out Loud's new initiative The Homecoming Project. Live Out Loud is a really great organistaion that connecst LGBT youth to community leaders and generally helps young people feel good about being themselves.
In January I did a talk for the Oxonian Society in NYC.
Here are some of my rambling thoughts, about the difference between British and American actors...
and here's what happened when I met Stanley Kubrick...
I have always been a rabid fan of the UK version of Big Brother, so when I was asked to take part in Celebrity Big Brother Hijack, I leapt at the chance.
The format differed from previous years in that the celebs were Big Brother rather than the housemates, with a different person 'hijacking' the show each day. And also the housemates were all young and excelled in their various fields. So it made for a very interesting and unusual take on the normal way of things.
I was just so excited to get to say 'This is Big Brother' over the house speakers, and to ask people to come into the diary room.
I love Chekhov, but this was the first time I had ever done any of his plays. However I thought of The Seagull often, and had even toyed with the idea of making a film of it set in a country estate in Scotland. I always thought that the Scottish temperament would be a good fit with the Russian one, and also we really understand what it feels like to be isolated in the sticks, longing to get away to the big city.
So I was thrilled to be asked to play Trigorin opposite Dianne Wiest's Arkadina for the Clasic Stage Company in New York City. Dianne is a brilliant actor and my first meeting with her showed me what an amazing person she is too. At our next meeting I met the director, Viacheslav Dolgachev, formerly of the Moscow Arts Theatre and I knew that this was going to be an extraordinary experience.
The thing I have always felt about Chekhov is that everyone is a drama queen. Really. Every singly character moans, complains, is self-absorbed and selfish. And I think that in the UK and the US we get Chekhov wrong, and make all the characters very tortured and internal, thereby losing any hope of making them the comedies they are supposed to be. So I was really interested to work with a real live Russian, as well as a Chekhov expert, to get a chance to experience how Russians actually go about doing it themsleves.
It was fascinating. First of all Slava asked us all to be bold in our interpretations but at the same time was incredibly detailed in his direction, down to the tiniest movement sometimes. Best of all was having several Russians in the room (interpreters mostly), and feeling the Russian temperament close at hand. There was no leap neccesary to see how these charaters operate when you watched and listened to the dramas and elaborate stories and the sheer volume going on in that room!
For me it finally made sense, and although the production had some problems, it certainly made people sit up and notice.
Here's a little interview I did for the NY Observer about the play..
Alan Cumming was excited to play a “real man” in the Classic Stage Company’s production of Chekov’s The Seagull. Mr. Cumming, the Tony Award-winning Scot with saucer-size blue eyes and a sly grin, recently played Dorothy’s scarecrow Glitch in the TV miniseries Tin Man and, um, a spacey scientist called Fegan Floop in those Spy Kids movies. (He also had a delightfully sleazy role as a gay nightlife impresario on The L Word.) But in The Seagull, he appears as Trigorin, a broody famous writer who woos Dianne Wiest’s character Arkadina and seduces a budding actress (played by Kelli Garner). “He just seems like a real man,” Mr. Cumming said over the phone, walking to Prana Power Yoga for his regular stretch after a recent play rehearsal. “He’s got everything, but he wants to destroy it. I’ve never played anyone like him.”
Mr. Cumming decided to take the part last year when the writers’ strike loomed and his agent was pushing him to sign movie projects. “All the films I was looking at, I was like, iiillck,” he said. Plus, Mr. Cumming, 43, had longed to appear in Chekov’s study of impossible love and creative torture—though he hoped to play the much younger, avant-garde playwright Konstantin (that role went, appropriately, to Ryan O’Nan). “The years have gone by and I missed my chance,” sighed Mr. Cumming.
B&w photo by Yelena Yemchuk for The New Yorker, others by Joan Marcus.
I felt that the gay community needed to stop using the 'f' word. (It rhymes with maggot!) Just as the black community has taken responsibility about using the 'n' word, we need to with the 'f' one. For how can we expect the rest of the world to stop using it if we still use it ourselves? Even in jest, even if we think we have reclaimed it and made it something else, it is still a word of hatred and is often the last word people hear before they are beaten or even killed.
So I spoke to GLAAD and my friend Joe Mantegna, and we shot this PSA which premiered at the GLAAD awards in 2008.